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Privacy Advocates Concerned About Amazon's New Tech To Boost Performance Of Devices

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Amazon launched new technology Tuesday that the company says will enhance the performance of some devices. But it also has some privacy advocates concerned.

If you own certain Alexa-enabled Echo devices or some Ring camera models, Amazon will be able to use part of your home's WiFi to create a new network called Amazon Sidewalk.

"Amazon Sidewalk is an ad hoc mesh network that takes advantage of your Amazon smart devices," explained CBS News tech reporter Dan Patterson.

Patterson said the new service takes a small sliver of WiFi at homes with certain Amazon products to create a shared network within neighborhoods. The so-called Sidewalk bridge allows devices with spotty WiFi to stay connected.

The wireless network also works with Tile trackers, which can be used to locate lost items like keys or pets.

"Preserving customer privacy and security is foundational to how we've built Amazon Sidewalk. Sidewalk is designed with multiple layers of privacy and security to secure data traveling on the network and to keep customers safe and in control. For example, Sidewalk Bridge owners do not receive any information about devices owned by others connected to Sidewalk and Amazon is not able to see the contents of messages sent over Sidewalk," said Amazon.

Jon Callas from the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes the network won't affect WiFi speeds.

"The amount of network that they say that they're going to be using is both very low bandwidth and relatively small," he said.

But Callas has concerns because users are automatically enrolled.

"This should very much be an opt in feature," said Ashkan Soltani, former chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission. "People pay a service fee to their cable provider for these services, right, so for Amazon to help themselves to that bandwidth is pretty questionable, I think."

People who want to opt out of the shared network can go into their Ring or Amazon app and turn it off.

According to Amazon, "Sidewalk Bridges include many Echo devices and select Ring Floodlight and Spotlight Cams," including:

Ring Floodlight Cam (2019)

Ring Spotlight Cam Wired (2019)

Ring Spotlight Cam Mount (2019)

Echo (3rd Gen and newer)

Echo Dot (3rd Gen and newer)

Echo Dot (3rd Gen and newer) for Kids

Echo Dot with Clock (3rd Gen and newer)

Echo Plus (All generations)

Echo Show (2nd Gen and newer)

Echo Spot

Echo Studio

Echo Input

Echo Flex


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